"Ethical" Purchasing Choices

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Ellie
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"Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Ellie » 10 Mar 2018, 13:50

Just something I've been noodling over lately, wondering what other people's thoughts about it are. It seems very difficult to me to make any buying choices to reflect one's ethics.

Like, I want to buy produce from other countries because I think it's a good thing to give their citizens a job, even if it pays less than it would in America. But not when the working conditions are truly inhumane. But there's no way to know the difference -- there's no provenance on a bag of grapes. So my choices are either local farmer's market, or supermarket crapshoot?

Or, if I'm doing a sewing project and I want to buy fabric that wasn't produced in sweatshop conditions. Everyone who sells "ethical" fabric right now seems to be mainly concerned with "environmentally sustainable" -- which I don't care about, sorry, environment -- or "organic" -- which I think is pointless and bullshit. I want regular old pesticide laden textiles, just from a halfway decent factory. That's not a Google search that yields results ...

And in general I want to buy things made overseas, because I imagine being unemployed in most places is worse than being unemployed in America. But again, at what point is a job so dangerous and crappy it's worse than no job at all? And can I ever know if I'm contributing to that or not?

Do you make any choices in your buying based on the working conditions that created them?
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Sandy
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Sandy » 10 Mar 2018, 15:11

The closest I've come is bananas, but it fell to finding the bananas that will last longer than a day. Plus they help me poop. So...no.

Since there are rarely good alternatives to sweatshops, I don't think people avoiding those are really helping. There's a reason people don't escape to go back to subsistence farming from a sweatshop.
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Warren
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Warren » 10 Mar 2018, 15:13

I reject the whole premise of this attitude. My contempt for it hasn't reached seething levels yet, but the increasing popularity of it is fucking up capitalism. See: nicole's sister.
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Ellie
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Ellie » 10 Mar 2018, 15:32

Sandy wrote:
10 Mar 2018, 15:11
Since there are rarely good alternatives to sweatshops, I don't think people avoiding those are really helping. There's a reason people don't escape to go back to subsistence farming from a sweatshop.
This is a really good point, and helps me frame it in my head. Thank you!
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JasonL
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by JasonL » 10 Mar 2018, 17:51

Team Sandy. I generally speaking try to be guided by price quality accessibility tradeoffs because long run I think people competing on that basis are basically doing the best thing. I find most versions of ethical sourcing questionable for reasons Sandy suggests once you consider the alternative proposal on the table. There are some items like diamonds I just won't buy, but truth be told I don't get utility from them anyway.

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Ellie
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Ellie » 10 Mar 2018, 18:19

JasonL wrote:
10 Mar 2018, 17:51
price quality accessibility tradeoffs
I'm not really sure what you mean by that -- can you explain in more detail?
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Warren
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Warren » 10 Mar 2018, 18:33

He means, just make the purchasing decisions that make the most sense for you as far as price, quality, and convenience trade offs go and the invisible hand will maximize resource allocation in a way that produces more ethical results than if you tried to produce ethical results.
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Mo
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Mo » 10 Mar 2018, 20:29

Part of it is the truly atrocious slave labor conditions are for things where you don't have much say, like cobalt. I do try to make some ethical choices when buying food, especially eggs.
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Aresen
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Aresen » 10 Mar 2018, 23:09

Team Sandy. Sweatshops are horrible, but they are one of the phases that countries go through on the way to industrialization. In capitalist countries, it tends to be a short-lived phase: South Korea went from peasant farmers through sweatshops to being one of the most prosperous countries in Asia in under fifty years*. In communist countries, it never ends.

*I have watched a few videos interviewing North Koreans who escaped to South Korea. Almost all of them complain that South Koreans work too hard.
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Kwix
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Re: "Ethical" Purchasing Choices

Post by Kwix » 11 Mar 2018, 14:32

Yeah, I'm team Sandy/JasonL.
http://www.aei.org/publication/defense- ... e-poverty/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/27/opin ... verty.html

By all means, shop your conscience when you feel you need to but try to make sure it's not misguided.

I, like Mo, try to source local, ethical foods when it makes sense. I care about the welfare and life of egg chickens so I harvest my own eggs when my hens are laying but I don't light my birds during winter. So, the next best step is backyard birds with light, then small producers, then mega producers with "free range" then the WalMart $0.69/doz box. It's economically stupid for me to raise birds*, but then I'm an irrational actor.

Localvore when it doesn't makes sense is stupid though. Here, we grow potatoes, cabbage (and other coles) and carrots. If you buy locally grown berries you get one harvest and it's in September, and if you buy local pears, you are a chump because there is no such thing as an arctic hardy pear that can be eaten out of hand. Store bought hothouse tomatoes here are little better the garbage picked green and shipped from California but at three times the price because "AK Grown!".

*I go through $20 of feed every week regardless of season and when laying I get ~3doz eggs a week. First off, that's $7/doz when laying and amortized out over the year it's closer to $15/doz and secondly I only eat approx half a dozen per week! In essence we pay a massive premium for "chicken TV".
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